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Education Reporter

NEA Convention Mantra Includes
Mandatory Kindergarten and Universal Preschool 
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Delegates to this year's NEA convention approved a new policy on early childhood education that was developed by a committee formed at last year's convention. The new policy reiterates what NEA resolutions have repeatedly stated, that kindergarten attendance "should be mandatory" and that "NEA supports full-day - as opposed to half-day - kindergarten and pre-kindergarten." The new policy also includes an all-out push for the establishment "in every state" of two years of " 'universal' pre-kindergarten for all three- and four-year old children . . ."

The NEA's new preschool demand is based on the false assumption that "there is no longer any serious doubt about the value of pre-kindergarten." As the Education Intelligence Agency (EIA) reported (7-4-03): "It was accepted without question by all [the delegates] that mandatory full-day kindergarten is a good thing, and that optional, publicly funded, universal preschool for all three- and four-year-olds is also a good thing."

In fact, research does raise serious doubts about the validity of the argument for universal preschool. (See Education Reporter, March 2003 and November 2002.) An authoritative study recently released by the National Institutes of Health shows that the more hours children spend in daycare (or pre-kindergarten), the higher the incidence and severity of behavior problems such as disobedience, over-aggressiveness, and stress.

NEA delegates were apparently more concerned about "the presence of a single sentence" in the new policy which reads in part: "NEA does not oppose the inclusion in a state's universal pre-kindergarten program of private non-profit and for-profit providers that meet specified criteria." According to EIA: "Listening to some delegates, approval of the report with this sentence included would bring about the end of days. Opponents claimed it constituted a retreat from NEA's policy of public funds for public schools alone." In the end however, the only change the delegates made to the policy was to replace the words "for-profit" with "non-sectarian."

With regard to funding the early childhood boondoggle, the NEA is consistent in its recommendations. "States (including as appropriate local) governments should be responsible for providing the additional funds necessary to make pre-kindergarten available to all three- and four-year-old children. Both the federal and state governments should use 'new' money [i.e. tax increases] to fund pre-kindergarten — not money taken from other areas of education and childcare which also have important unmet needs."

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